Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
*For some reason, I find pictures of Ainge as a baseball player hilarious. Look at that mug: That’s the face of a guy who knows he should be playing basketball instead.
During his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” show, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations addressed several “incidents” — Jaylen Brown’s spat with Marcus Morris during a loss to the Miami Heat; Kyrie Irving’s disagreement with Gordon Hayward in Orlando and subsequent call-out of Boston’s young players; Jaylen Brown’s call-out of Irving’s call-out — that have led some wonder if the locker room is divided.
“To me, these aren’t stories,” Ainge said. “They’re not a big deal. I mean, yes, Kyrie could have done better. Yes, Jaylen could have done better. But these are people. These are kids. These are guys playing with emotion in a glass house. They’re real people with real emotions; they’re not perfect and I don’t ever expect them to be.”
Let’s go back and grab that last sentence one more time for emphasis:
They’re real people with real emotions; they’re not perfect and I don’t ever expect them to be.”
Tip of the hat to Ainge for reminding all of us that these guys are on edge, and there’s a fine line between playing with an edge and being on edge.
I’m as disappointed as the next guy with the way the Celtics’ season has turned out. At the same time, I know that the knee-jerk reaction to a challenging situation is seldom the correct one. It’s our tendency to take bad situations and make them worse by our responses to them.
That’s why Ainge’s comments give me confidence that the team will eventually get this figured out. If Ainge responded to team issues in the same manner that Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving did, it’s extremely unlikely that things would get better. The situation would likely escalate, and the end result would be a rash trade of someone or another somewhere else and the end of a promising dynasty.
However, Ainge is old enough to be these guys’ father. Shoot. He got his first head coaching gig when Kyrie Irving was only four years old, and he was the Celtics’ GM before Jaylen Brown learned how to do long division (probably–you never know, though, that kid’s smart).
This measured response is exactly what you want to see from a guy in the front office. It’s his job not to get caught up in the moment, whether that moment is a high or a low. That detachment is one of the reasons why he’s been so good at making trades, and it’s probably why you don’t want to play poker with him.
Ainge certainly understands what is driving Irving now, though he also believes his star may be unnecessarily pressuring himself.
“Maybe,” Ainge said. “I really like Kyrie. He’s a fantastic player with great qualities. But a lot of the guys I’ve been around — Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale, Clyde Drexler — didn’t have to lead by themselves.
“Larry was vocal, and I’ll take him on my team every day of the week,” he said. “But I wouldn’t call him the perfect leader. He was a great player with leadership qualities. Larry made mistakes as a leader, but they just weren’t as scrutinized back then.”
Irving, on the other hand, is dissecting his own development as a leader in public.
You ever taken a look at an old basketball box score?
You get rebounds, points, attempts, makes, fouls and assists, and that’s it.
Compare that with the NBA’s advanced stats page, which has–among other things–the top speed clocked and total distance traveled by each player, and it’s amazing how much more information is at our fingertips.
It’s the same way with basketball coverage.
There was a time when post-game press conferences weren’t even recorded, let alone televised, now every media availability is recorded (often by more than one outlet), and every word any player drops on social media is repeated, parsed, and dissected.
Why there’s so much basketball coverage now that even John Karalis can get a job as a full time beat reporter. I’ll go even further: There’s so much coverage that John Karalis gave a guy like me a semi-regular gig typing nonsense on a couch–nonsense which is, by and large, meta-coverage of the coverage of the Celtics.
One of the reasons why we shouldn’t compare eras in anything, really (a lesson I owe to my art history professor, Norman Gambill), is because the entire context changes from one era to another. The popular trend in basketball is to go back 25 or 30 years and describe all the players from that era and earlier as blue-collar workers (and, to a certain extent they were–they had jobs that required them to break a sweat, and they usually got themselves a beer afterwards), regardless of the fact that if today’s players were alive in that era, they’d be playing to that era’s standards of training, fitness and game prep.
Point being, if Larry Bird were playing in this era, we’d be far more aware of his shortcomings, but the end results would likely be the same.
Page 2: Where I don’t care what LeBron thinks of Kyrie’s phone call
According to the Athletic’s Joe Vardon, Irving’s call to James came through as James was sitting at dinner with another former teammate: Kevin Love, who remained with the Cavaliers after James left for the Los Angeles Lakers. According to Love, James looked down at his phone and saw who was calling. He then showed it to Love and wondered aloud what Irving could want.
From Vardon: “A source close to James declined to share what was said on the call but said LeBron was very appreciative that Irving called him. If their relationship was frayed, which the manner of their breakup in Cleveland says that it was, then some repairs are obviously underway.”
Did we all become middle-schoolers here?
I really don’t care what LeBron thinks of Kyrie’s phone call–or Kyrie’s apology.
You don’t apologize to someone because of who they are. You apologize to someone because of who you are.
The most important bit in Kyrie’s comments after the Raptors game was not ‘Oh, yeah, I called LeBron.’
It was this:
“JB was right”
Kyrie Irving publicly questioned the commitment of the team’s younger players.
Jaylen Brown publicly pushed back against those remarks.
Publicly acknowledging that Brown had a point is worth far more than Kyrie only acknowledging his misstep in private. It’s not easy to tell someone you screwed up. It’s even harder to tell the whole world you screwed up.
Kyrie putting himself out there like that for Jaylen Brown ought to mean a lot to the kid.
Today’s One (kind of) Useful link
links to stuff about LeBron, ridiculous takes on Kyrie’s comments, and other assorted nonsense.